Friday, September 27, 2013

Beyond The Label: Adding Info To Digital Images

Anyone who has scanned photos into their computer or downloaded documents has certainly come across the problem of trying to best label that image. However, there is only so much information even a creative person can cram into an image name. For many files the problem is manageable (e.g. Hartman-KoppWedding), but for some, like a reunion photo, including all of the names in the photo label is simply not feasible.

This problem has been nagging at me for some time, but I have finally found a solution. Without adding text on top of the image or using cryptic labels I can now include all (or at least a lot) of pertinent information to an image. Now I can include:
  1. The names of everyone in a photo (or my best guess).
  2. Detailed source/provenance information (Aunt Jane Smith's album, eBay, etc.).
  3. Approximate time period.
Beyond photos of people you could label:
  1. Photos of family homes (with address, years of residence, etc.).
  2. Photos of family heirlooms (what is it, who owned it and who has it now).
  3. Documents (was it downloaded from Family Search, Ancestry, etc.).
  4. Maps (what township did your relative live in).
These are just a few suggestions, but I'm sure as I continue labeling I'll think of some other uses.

I use IrfanView as my image viewer (free at their website, but it is worth looking through your preferred viewer to see if you can find a way to add labels. In IrfanView, open a photo (in jpg format, it doesn't seem to work with tif images) and click on the “Image” heading at the top of the screen. Select “Information” at the top of the drop-down menu. A new window will open.

Click on the “IPTC Info” button at the bottom left of the screen. Another window will open with several blank fields.

The largest field, “Caption,” is where I add the description. I also include my name in the “Caption Writer” field. When you have finished be sure to click on the “Write” button at the bottom of this screen and then “OK” on the bottom of the original window. The next time you click on “Information” you'll see an asterisk on the IPTC button to let you know there is information there.

One nice thing about adding information in IPTC form is that it is a kind of metadata, meaning that it is permanently attached to the image. This is a good way to include a description of the photo as well as your own information, especially if you send it to someone else (it should still be accessible in other image viewers). I tested this in Picasa. When I double-clicked an image the caption I added in IrfanView was visible underneath it. I was also able to add a tag to a tif file in Picasa (View → Tags), but I don't know if it is visible in other photo software.

I think adding information to images is a great tool for genealogists. We can add quite a bit of information to photos without it becoming lost and without having to use cryptic titles.

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